Hardwoods are made up of mostly three materials: cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin.  Cellulose and hemicellulose are the basic material of the wood cells; lignin acts as a kind of cell-bonding glue.  Some softwoods like pine and firs, hold significant quantities of resin, which produces a harsh-tasting soot when burned.  Because of this, these woods are never recommended for smoking!  Additionally, orchard woods like apple, peach, and pecan are traditionally sprayed with pesticides in order to ensure a productive tree.  Unfortunately, these pesticides are absorbed by the tree and released when burned.


All woods contain compounds, which act as a preservative providing both antioxidants and reduction in bacterial growth.  However, there are also compounds that are more toxic to people, compounds like formaldehyde and acetic acid which provide for an overall pH level in wood.  Hotter wood fires produce a higher pH level.  A good example is mesquite, which produces twice the level of polycyclic aromatic hydocarbons, or PAHs, thus, has a pH level almost three times the level of cooler burning hardwoods like Sugar Maple and Oak.

 

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